Micronutrients: Sugars that Heal, or seaweed, bark, fungi

Continuing on Paul Jaminet’s  theme that micronutrient deficiencies trigger hunger, I’d like to explore this little gem hidden in (let’s be generous) mud. I’m saving you some reading here, but the main tediousness is that “Sugars that Heal” (Emil I. Mondo) is serious multi-level marketing hype for a company who’s name ends in -atech and first syllable is from the sugar found in aloe vera, Mannose.

The gist of it is this: the cell wall is designed to be a tight barrier to most things, and the body sends signals that trigger tree-like antennae on the outside of the cell, but which have roots that go into the cell wall, which in turn send cascades of signals inside the cell and make it change what its doing. These trees are a combination of proteins and sugars (hence glyco-proteins).

Mondo claims there are eight ‘essential sugars’; three are (overly) common:

  • Glucose (duh)
  • Fructose (with glucose makes the evil sucrose) and
  • Galactose (with glucose makes the milk sugar lactose).

The others are not so well known:

  • Mannose (Aloe vera)
  • Fucose (seaweed)
  • Xylose (gum)
  • Arabinose (larch bark, gums)…and
  • Glucobother they seem to have changed since I read the book.

Mondo asserts that if we don’t get all these ‘sugars’ then like a typewriter without half its vowels, the signals get less accurate. So buy our expensive product on autoship and voila! Empty pockets. I would have tossed the book except a friend’s son had a serious brain injury, and he asked me to look into it.

A bit of internet research and it turns out that the five other ‘sugars’ can be found at less than a tenth of the cost through sources that don’t involve pyramid selling. More interesting, many are indeed things our early ancestors would have eaten, and which are not really found in supermarket aisles: a wide variety of seaweeds, fungi, bark, gum, algae, yeasts, crabshells and joints, and the aforementioned aloe vera.

While the science does not back the MLM product, I am a great believer that there are many things we do not yet know about human nutrition and health. So take the “eight essential sugars” with a grain of pink Himalayan salt (ha!). But if you have abnormal hunger signals and want to normalise hunger by getting micronutrients, I’m intrigued that there is an undeniable ancestral-type logic to these strange, uncommon food sources.

Traditional hunter-gatherer societies typically eat a range of over 200 plants per week; we’re lucky to get 5+ a day. So, if you are aiming to reduce hunger by adding variety to (by ancestral standards) a fairly low micronutrient supermarket diet, you could do worse that deliberately broadening your mind to include authentic traditional foods. I think we doth protest too much about dirt and bark, gums, yeast, algae, crustacean and insect shells and seaweeds. We’ve lost that pioneering spirit that tested out edible foods. And there is a huge amount of evidence for example that we need connective tissue, organs and joints to counterbalance muscle meat.

First, the Chinese have quite a range of medicinal mushrooms with some quite remarkable properties (there’s a reason they’re called immortality food), such as shiitake, maitake, reishi, cordyceps, chaga and so on. Asian markets have a huge variety of dried mushrooms for sale at reasonable prices that add ‘umami’ flavour in soups and stews.

If you look at what the great apes eat, there is quite a bit of bark and flowers. Eskimo ate bark to provide vitamin C. Aspirin is made from willow bark. There is a trademarked bark extract Pycnogenol from “French maritime pines”. Now whenever I discover another muti-syllabic micronutrient my spouse now makes fun of my pink Nodgenols. New Zealand as made a competing product, Enzogenol, from Radiata pine (an imported tree from California).

The Japanese eat many sea plants including red, green, brown seaweeds. New Zealand Maori ate a wide range of actually quite nice purple and green edible seaweeds. Chlorella and spirulina algae are well-known to ‘health foodies’, and yeasts round out the picture, from spontaneous ferments (air sourdough) to brewers yeast. And to just for beauty, nothing related to sugars, I think it’s really pretty to put edible flowers like heartsease, nasturtium, roses and violets in with your herb salad.

Now just to leap to another traditional food we don’t find in supermarket aisles, there’s insects. (My spouse kept mysteriously teasing me about cicadas, until eventually I clicked it was short for circadian rhythm!) But yes, like Pumbaa and Timon, there’s another whole ancestral world of entomophagy: mealworm flour and honeyed cicadas! Try following Daniella Martin @GirlMeetsBug. But you’ll be doing that on your own. Enjoy!



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